Great ship, shame about some of the guests
21 of 24 people found this review informative
|Reviewed By: Viscount, Harefield on 12th Nov 2011|
|Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean Cruises||Times cruised before: 10+|
|Cruise Ship: Independence of the Seas||Sailed: October, 2011|
|Destination: Canaries||Age: 56-65|
|Cabin: Inside||Occasion: Family holiday|
Back on IOTS after earlier trips this year and it really did feel like coming home. A lovely surprise to be able to renew our acquaintance with Marianna from Ukraine, now working in Schooner's Bar, and that first drink just reinforced the feeling that everything was well with the world. Later the first evening we also discovered that Chris, Neil and Sophie of the Cruise Director's Staff were also still aboard IOTS and we settled in for a great time.
Captain Teo hinted in his welcome aboard chat that the weather might not be that friendly for Biscay and the Atlantic, and how true he was. Apparently we encountered the first severe Atlantic storm of the winter, and the rocky seas lasted pretty much all the way to Gran Canaria, by which time the novelty had definitely worn off. From then on, however, all was smooth, with even warm sunshine on the penultimate day.
Good stops in Vigo and Lisbon, where we did our own thing, having called there several times before. The weather improved in the Canaries, and our choice of trips paid off in spades. Camel riding at Maspalomas was a good laugh, and trekking in the Teide National Park on Tenerife and Whale watching in Madeira were brilliant, all in bright sunshine.
In our experience, the staff on RCI are more friendly and helpful than any other line. No different this time, as everyone from Stateroom attendant (an inside, as usual), dining and bar staff went the extra mile. Food was consistently very good, if perhaps not spectacular.
Entertainment in the Alhambra Theatre was mixed, so our usual tactic of standing at the back allowed us to quietly exit when we had seen enough. The comedian (forget his name) between Madeira and La Coruna was excellent, and the soul group got the theatre as rocking as it ever will on a cruise ship. Plenty of quizzes and game shows on offer from Cruise Director James and his gang, again of mixed quality and interest but generally good. James is quickly becoming a thoroughly professional CD, and while Joff still reigns supreme in that role, he now has some competition. James seems to have made the Rock Britannia extravaganza his own, and this was easily the best of the Royal Promenade shows. The ice show, Strings, is still breath-taking at the 3rd time of viewing.
That was the good stuff. For the negative feedback I would refer you to the report of 9th Nov from the Baron of Worcester, about Celebrity Equinox. While the Baron and Contessa are no doubt considerably richer (in a Birmingham accent) than me, I would like to make a similar point down at my level. We became hooked on cruising about 20 years ago, when we realised that the quality of the whole holiday easily surpassed anything that was available at a comparable price on land. The customer service, the food, the entertainment, and the occasional breath-taking moment such as the ice show, or sailing into a beautiful harbour, just combine to blow other holidays out of the water.
We chose this trip as the mother-in-law wanted to see Madeira, and IOTS offered a competitive price. In retrospect it is pretty obvious that a cheap 12 night voyage to the Canaries is quite likely to attract the package-holiday type of client, but it did come as a shock to see quite so many football shirts. Unlike Celebrity, the drinks package on IOTS seems to be viewed as a challenge, where the equivalent daily cost is regarded as a target to be beaten.
We go on cruise holidays to eat, drink, be entertained, and visit some interesting places. We can party better than most 50-somethings (40-somethings, come to that). I do feel however, that RCI's pricing policy with IOTS has reached a tipping point, and the giveaways are changing the whole atmosphere of the ship. I understand that many guests will not wish to dress formally (a few will even have tried it previously), but it is also true that when people are encouraged to dress up, their behaviour normally improves accordingly.
We were unfortunately aware of a couple of incidents where Cruise Director staff and bar staff were verbally abused by drunken guests, one of whom was proud to admit that he had easily beaten the drinks package target. Fortunately, we only heard by word of mouth about the episode in Bolero's where a knife was allegedly drawn. We are normally regulars in the ship's nightclub, The Labyrinth, but this time we felt totally out of place and slightly intimidated by the clientele, so we gave it a wide berth. Overall, my feeling was that if I wanted to spend my time rubbing shoulders with tattooed, loudly drunk, football shirt-wearers, with an undercurrent of hostility, I could easily achieve that in the pub at the end of my road.
So it does seem that the budget end of the cruise market may now not be able to offer quite the kind of unique experience that enchanted us 20 years ago. There were many first-time cruisers on this voyage and I hope that they were not disappointed. We are booked on Jewel to St. Petersburg next year, an itinerary which will probably attract a different kind of guest, so hopefully the problem will not arise. In future, however, we may have to use Celebrity / Azamara and the like for the more conventional destinations.
|Quality of Food|
|Liam Stewart, pianist in Schooner, a pleasant way to spend an hour. Unknown comedian between Madeira and La Coruna was excellent|
|Trek in Teide National Park on Tenerife|
|Chris and Ellen - Cruise director Staff|
Dec 06 2013 09:14AM)